Israeli Religious Group Protests Mixed-gender Army Service, Calls LGBT People 'Perverts'

The Liba Center says the IDF's mixed gender policy is 'intended to change the entire IDF domain into a secular and permissive one.'

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Women soldiers in the IDF.
Women soldiers in the IDF.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Liba Center, an organization describing itself as being "dedicated to preserving the Jewish character of the State of Israel and strengthening the pillars of Jewish society," has issued a statement opposing what it described as "coerced pluralism" in the Israel Defense Forces, a reference primarily to mixed-gender service.

In a position paper distributed over the past few days, the center – which is identified with the Zionist Haredi faction of the right-wing – takes aim at the IDF's mixed-gender order that was issued in late September.

The order, according to the Liba position paper, "violates the robustness of the IDF and its operational ability, at the level of both the fighter and the women soldiers themselves."

"The trend of the order is contrary to all human, military, Jewish and moral reason. In effect it is an order that is intended to change the entire IDF domain into a secular and permissive domain, allowing only limited units in which a reasonable atmosphere is able to be maintained."

The mass email of the position paper included an attachment comparing the mixed-gender order with its predecessor, the “appropriate integration order” of 2003.

The new order, the center maintains, "creates multiple conflicts by enabling mixing between men and women, which has been proven detrimental in war."  It adds that the inability of "officers and those who wish to resist to demand to serve in single-gender units is contrary to all principles of the state."

Regarding the requirements that soldiers participate in all the activities of their units, the center questions whether "soldiers will be able to avoid visiting a church, or avoid participating in activities with perverts," evidently referring the LGBT community.

According to the order, soldiers can ask to be excused from activities that are non-official and not of a national nature "if there is concern that their participation with harm their beliefs, values or religious way of life." Commanders are required to discern such instances during activities and weigh them according to the circumstances.

The order was compiled over a five year period, involving representatives of the IDF Rabbinate, the chief or staff's adviser for gender affairs, the Human Resources Directorate  and others. Rabbinical opposition to the order has surged in recent days, particularly following reports that the army was looking into including women in armored units.

Haaretz reported last week that Gen. Hagai Topolanski, head of the IDFs Human Resources Directorate, is due to meet with senior members of the Religious Zionist camp soon to hear their objections.

In July, the Liba Center recently a conference during which Rabbi Yig'al Levenstein, head of the premilitary academy in the West Bank settlement of Eli, attacked the army for displaying "confused values." Levenstein consistently described the gay community as "perverts" during his speech.

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